The Chicago Bulls are about to enter a new era. Fans are skeptical, given the beleaguered squad’s many hopeful eras since their ’90s dominance. The latest move, however, should create hope for the young lottery team. Head coach Jim Boylen, long the target of media ridicule, has finally been sent packing.
Often, a dismissal like this requires a softer touch. The Philadelphia 76ers, for example, spiraled into awful playoffs results under a coach who appeared to be truly trying. But Boylen is difficult to compare to Brett Brown, given how out of touch his approach to his underachieving team was.
Jim Boylen’s dismissal felt like an inevitability
Boylen’s appeal appears to be entirely to front office executives. The actual players, and even support staff like trainers and chefs, have always been left cold by his entire approach. After a high-profile flameout with the Utah Utes NCAA squad, it was something of a surprise that Boylen managed to land a head coaching spot in the NBA a handful of years later.
Consider the legal nightmare his bizarrely aggressive management tactics triggered for both organizations, as On Tap Sports Net reports. Boylen had some kind of scuffle with one of the team’s cooks, bad enough that lawyers got involved. He forced his players to work out issues by literally boxing each other. His results were a 6-25 record and a pink slip.
He reportedly carried over similarly abrasive tactics to running the Bulls’ locker room. It led to an unprecedented spate of public comments from players, a phenomenon almost unheard of in NBA history, via Bleacher Report. His unstable approach to his job carried over to games, as well. His scattershot use of timeouts led to chaotic situations, including thoughtlessly taking open looks away from his own players.
Boylen’s odd expectations were out of sync with reality
Boylen’s aggressively boneheaded take on running an NBA squad became obvious early. After a historic 2018 loss, as reported by Sporting News, Boylen called his starters “embarrassing.” He likely knowingly attempted to shift the blame. The most notable phenomenon of the 133-77 disaster against the Boston Celtics was Boylen repeatedly swapping out all five players on the floor.
Yet he expected this team to flourish under these circumstances. Not only to grow, but to become the best assist-driven NBA squad in league history. That seems ridiculous when it’s spelled out in that way, but it’s exactly what Boylen claimed he was looking for. He outright said in an interview with The Athletic that he expected the Bulls to average 35 assists per game.
The same article points out that the best record in that category in the entire history of the NBA was the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers. They averaged 31.4 assists per game. It’s difficult to imagine an explanation for what inspired Boylen to both privately set this expectation with his players, and then to feel confident in sharing it with the public.
The reasons Boylen’s tenure in Chicago is regarded as a failure
As ESPN reports, Boylen’s Chicago tenure is packed with stark, awful stats. In his two seasons, the Bulls win/loss column was a brutal 39-84, the second-worst in Bulls history. He didn’t get anywhere close to a playoff appearance. The one and only plausible explanation for keeping him on for yet another year was his salary, which CBS Sports reports was one of the lowest in the league.
Even if Boylen made it for two years as a head coach as a bargain bin option, there have to be better choices. He has spent his entire career demotivating players whenever he’s given full reign over them. It’s more likely that he set off his young Bulls players on a lesser career path than they would’ve had under a better leader. Somehow, despite at one point working under the great Gregg Popovich, Boylen’s most basic assumptions about the NBA were borderline delusional. If he works in the league again, it’s hard to imagine it going any other way.